There have been a number of articles responding to Sean Trende‘s articles over at Real Clear Politics where he has been arguing that Republicans don’t need to make any changes; they just need to get more white people out to the polls and get a larger percentage of the white vote. For example, yesterday, Ed Kilgore wrote Doubling Down on the White Man’s Party. But I think that Trende’s basic idea is right, although I would put it in a different way. Given that the Republicans have backed themselves into an ideological corner and are unwilling to change any of their positions, their only choice is to go all in on their white strategy.
Until yesterday, I would have said that this is a clear loser, however. The problem is that Trende is fooling himself in thinking that the Republican Party can get 70% of the white vote. In 2012, they managed to get 60% of it and that is pretty much the limit to what what they can get. Let’s remember that by and large, whites do not vote Republican for racist reasons; they vote for the party because they are older and thus richer. Poor whites still vote for the Democratic Party overall. These whites have not been waiting to join the Republican Party until it got even more racist and elitist.
Along these lines, Jonathan Chait wrote an article that showed how white demographics go against Trende’s idea of getting a higher percentage of white voters. Younger white voters tend to split over Democrat and Republican preferences. It is only as they get older that their preferences turn hard toward the Republicans. Now this could indicate that the young white voters will move more and more toward the Republicans as they get older. Certainly this will happen to some extent. But most of the difference between the old and the young is the legacy of the Great Compression. Now we see ever greater income inequality, so far fewer of today’s young white people will be affluent when they get old. Thus far fewer will turn Republican as they get older.
But what Trende is right about is that the Republicans may indeed be able to grow the percentage of the white electorate. And that became a whole lot easier yesterday when the Supreme Court effectively abolished Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Republicans probably don’t want to increase the raw number of whites who vote. Those who tend not to vote probably tend to vote Democrat anyway. Much better is to keep the current white vote and simply suppress all the other voters. And Republican state legislators are working hard to do just that.
It is wrong to think of Sean Trende as some kind of loon who can be dismissed. He is a smart and knowledgeable guy. I wrote about his debunking of the six-year myth a couple of months ago—the best discussion of the issue I’ve ever read. And given what the Republican Party is willing to do in the next couple of elections, the “maximize the white vote” strategy is the only one that could conceivably work. As long as there is hope, the Republican Party will hope. They will only change when there is no other option.
Say it now, and don’t be tardy
Republicans are a white party!